By Zoe Johnston
Most of us have a few favourite recipes which are tried and tested, and we could probably make with our eyes shut. Kerry Taylor from Derby
has stepped out of her comfort zone and managed to master the notoriously difficult (and intimidating!) macaron, leading to the start of her own local business.
Inspired at an early age by her nan who was a keen baker, Kerry started making cupcakes a few years ago. Although she loved experimenting with flavours, she noticed that the cupcake market was becoming a little saturated. Looking for something different, she came across a book on making macarons. Kerry told us, "I had heard that they were tricky to master, which suited me because I'm so stubborn. I refused to be beaten, and an obsession was born!"
Kerry did some research and discovered a possible gap in the UK market. She made some macarons as favours for a friends wedding, and the positive response from guests was the starting point. She says ,"The feedback I received from guests at the wedding (and the different people who tried them while I was experimenting!) was so positive and supportive, that I thought 'maybe I can do something with this', so I spent pretty much a whole week making various flavours and perfecting my technique". She created a Facebook
page and Twitter
profile, and Mama Macaroonie
Although she works alone from her kitchen at home, Kerry occasionally drafts in help from her mum, fiancé and eight-year-old daughter Emily to help out at craft fairs and local events.
With so many flavours to choose from, it may be difficult to pinpoint a clear favourite. However, Kerry says, "Strawberry or raspberry always go down well, as do traditional macaron flavours such as rose or lavender. I personally love violet or earl grey flavours, but then any of the chocolate flavours are good too. There are so many to choose from!"
Although she is currently concentrating on smaller individual orders (delivering to Nottingham and Derby areas), Kerry is looking to expand her business. As macarons are considered to be so difficult to master, I asked Kerry about commonly made mistakes and how they can be avoided. "I think the biggest mistake in making macarons is underestimating them! I read the recipe the first time and thought 'It's only a few ingredients, how hard can it be?' Well, the answer is VERY! You really have to read the recipe and follow it carefully. I personally don't think there's much room for manoeuvre with the process.
"The hardest thing is knowing when to stop the macaronage stage (the part where you're squashing the air out of the beaten egg whites, ground almonds and icing sugar). If you mix too much the batter gets too runny, and you get uneven shapes and flat macarons. If you don't mix enough, the mixture is too thick and you get 'pointy hats' on your macarons.
"Also, make sure you tap your trays to get rid of as many air bubbles as possible, and always, always, ALWAYS let them rest for at least 30 minutes before baking. If you don't, your macarons won't have the cute ruffled little feet"
Kerry has been kind enough to share this recipe for white chocolate macarons below.
"You can flavour the white chocolate ganache with pretty much whatever you fancy. I use natural extracts, real fruit purees, tea, alcohol, literally anything!"
200g icing sugar
110g ground almonds
100g egg whites (you really do need to measure them!)
35g caster sugar
150g white chocolate
75ml double cream
- Sieve the icing sugar and ground almonds into a large bowl and mix together. If you have a bowl with a flat bottom that will make macaronage stage a bit easier.
- If you end up with lots of larger bits of almonds in the sieve weigh the bits and add some more sieved almonds to the mixture to replace them so you definitely have 110 grams.
- Start whisking the egg whites in a separate, perfectly clean bowl (egg whites don’t like any grease or soap in the bowl or on the beaters).
- Add the caster sugar slowly when the egg whites start to go cloudy, and whisk until you have stiff, glossy peaks. If you are colouring the macarons I add gel colour to the egg whites during whisking.
- Scrape the whisked egg whites into the bowl with the icing sugar and ground almond mix and mix it all together with a spatula. You don’t need to be gentle just make sure all the dry ingredients are combined with the eggs.
- Now for the macaronage! Using a spatula or silicone bowl scraper start pushing down on the mixture as if you are spreading it all over the bowl. (A bit like how you would spread grout between tiles!!).
- Keep this up until when you lift the spatula out the mixture falls off like a ribbon, it will look shiny but still a bit grainy.
- Tip into a piping bag with either a 1cm nozzle, or if you are like me and can’t be bothered to wash nozzles and/or piping bags then just cut a hole in the bottom of a disposable bag about 1cm wide.
- Pipe onto a very flat baking tray lined with non-stick baking paper. I also have a pre drawn template with circles about 3 cm in diameter that I put under the sheet and remove before baking. This way they all come out roughly the same size.
- Tap the bottom of the tray quite hard a few times.
- Now step away! Leave the trays on the side for at least 30 minutes, this is needed to give macarons their feet. Don’t ask me how or why, but it works. To test them lightly touch one of the tops and if your finger comes away without any batter on then they are ready, if it doesn't leave them for another 15 minutes and test again.
- While they are resting you can preheat the oven to 140°C for conventional, 120°C for fan or Gas Mark 1.
- Bake one tray at a time in the middle of the oven for 8 minutes then open the oven door and wiggle the top of one of the macarons, if it wiggles it’s not quite ready so bake for another 2 minutes and test again. They take between 8-14 minutes depending on the size of macaron and your oven.
- Let them cool and peel off the baking tray.
- For white chocolate ganache, finely chop or grate 150g of chocolate and place in a bowl.
- Gently warm 75ml double cream in a small saucepan until just starting to boil and tip straight away onto the chocolate and mix together. If you find that the chocolate isn’t melting after a couple of minutes mixing then don’t be afraid to zap in the microwave for 15 seconds at a time.
- Add any flavouring you are using and mix well, allow the ganache to cool and thicken then pipe onto one half of your macaron shells. You will need to pair them up, trying to match similar sizes and then gently place the top shell on to complete the macaron.
They will be yummy now, BUT if you can wait, then pop them in an airtight container in the fridge for 24 hours, then bring back to room temperature and they will taste even more amazing! They’ll keep in the fridge for up to 5 days and you can freeze them in an airtight container.
Thanks to Zoe Johnston for the article and Mama Macaroonie for the recipe and tips.